The longest day of my trip so far was my second day in Florence. After about 5 hours of sleep, I got up early to go on another bike tour – this time in Tuscany. We were taken out into the country side by van to an old 13th century castle about 40 minutes outside of Florence. Before we even started the bike tour, we went on a tour of the winery and the olive oil making process on the castle grounds. Then we climbed up to the top of the ancient tower, where they used to store wine within its cool walls. The top gave everyone on the tour a great photo op as the Tuscan countryside stretched out below us in every direction. The difference between this view and some that I saw with my mom and Laura is that this time I really was in the countryside. There were hardly any buildings for miles in any direction; just trees and vineyards. The colors of yellow, brown, and green dominated the landscape along with splashes of color.
After our tour around the Poppiano Castle grounds, we got to sample the wine produce there and I bought a bottle which came in handy later on… More on that in a bit. Finally it was time to start our bike ride and thankfully it was not all just romantic couples, there were some TCU sorority girls and 2 Bodypump Instructors on the ride as well. The beginning of our ride was a really easy downhill, I hardly had to pedal at all. I think I used my break more than my pedals for the first 20 minutes or so. We stopped a few times to take photos and after about an hour and a half we reached the restaurant where we had lunch. Since it was about 1pm by this time, I thoroughly enjoyed my eggplant pasta and gelato. There were 2 adorable dogs running around in the back of the family restaurant, which I’m pretty sure doubled as the owners house as well.
After lunch we were back to peddling for another hour or so until we reached “the hill”. The after lunch peddling was not too strenuous, just some slight up and downs. I was talking with one of the guys who leads the bike rides, which he does as his second job besides teaching English. Oh, another random connection I made with the girl who also teaches English and helps out with bike tours part time… She graduated from Tulane! She had actually studied abroad in Florence and fell in love with the city, so a few years after she graduated she moved to Italy and now teaches and rides bikes. So anyways, once we reached “the hill”, we had the option of getting in the van for a ride up or to continue biking. I of course choose to try to bike. I was able to ride my bike for about a third of the way up the steep grade, but then I realized that walking would be faster than riding my bike. Every one else came to this realization as well along the way, and we ended up walking the steepest parts. Nonetheless I did not need the van, I made it all the way to the top on my feet with my bike. I could definitely cross out my workout for the day after that.
At the top of the hill, we had a quick water break then rode for another half an hour or so to make it back to the castle. We made our way back to Florence in the van from there. I was tired from a solid day of bike riding and touring the country side already, but as they say no rest for the weary. I met up with Drew and we went to a pizza and gelato class, which turned out to be about 3 and a half hours long – way longer than I had expected! For most of the class Drew was giving me a look that said “I can’t believe you dragged me to this”. That’s when the wine came in handy. I think perhaps the chefs went into a far too detailed pizza making description for a normal persons attention span, so we opened up the wine i had bought earlier and quickly became the envy of the rest of the group. The pizza dough making process is what really took so long, because we did everything from scratch. We had to punch it, let us rise, then roll it. While we were waiting for the dough to rise, we were given a gelato making demonstration, but unfortunately it’s next to impossible to make good home made gelato unless you have about 4 hours to spare. I snuck into the kitchen a little later and got a taste of the cream gelato just as they took it out of the machine… Yum!!
Our pizzas turned out really well. We got to choose all of our own toppings and we each made 2 individual size pizzas. There was one thing that made the chef get angry and that was if you didn’t use enough flour under your pizza dough. If you did not use enough flour, the dough tended to stick to the table and it was difficult to put it into the pizza carrier. This would make him very hilariously mad, except he was actually mad not just joking. I found it quite funny. I convinced the other chef to let me put my pizza in the oven and take it out the second time which was more challenging than it may sound. At the end of our class, we were all awarded certificates of completion… Definitely going on the wall of my apartment!
At this point I think I was past the point of exhaustion, so we went back to the hostel to shower and then went back out. We met some funny guys at the Lions Fountain pub, then went with them to sing karaoke at the Red Garter. Correction, I wanted to sing some specific songs, but none of the ones I wanted came up, so I ended up singing a song in Spanish with my new friend from Mexico and then my new friend from Brazil tried to explain another song in Portuguese to me. A variety of karaoke, if I ever saw one! When that bar closed, we went to another one. That’s why this day was officially one of the longest of my trip, since I was up and going for more than 20 hours! It was also one of the best days of my trip though because I got to do all of my favorite things; exercise by riding a bike, cook in my pizza and gelato class, and socialize with my cousin and new friends. Definitely my idea of a great day!